Something that people just seem to brush off about a lot of songs now a days is the power that they have. Now I am not talking about how hard a power chord is or how awesome a synth keyboard solo can be. What I am talking about is the lyrics. In today’s world of instant gratification, songs are generated to repeat the same phrase at least twelve times in a song it seems. Of course a songs chorus should be repeated because…. HELLO, it’s a chorus. Songs today have no character, just ideas. Unlike Billy Joel’s 1973 hit, “Piano Man.”

This classic song, was influenced by the time that Mr. Joel spent as literally the Piano Man at a bar in Los Angeles called, “The Executive Room”. If someone were to take a time machine to 1972, and went there looking for Billy Joel, they would not find him, since Billy Joel, played under the name Bill Martin. So when the song mentions Bill, that is why.

One of the things that truly makes this song is a classic, is the fact it is a firsthand account of all the different sorts of people that Mr. Joel met and the stories he learned. Which brings us to what we can truly learn from this song.

Let’s start with the first verse:

“It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Makin’ love to his tonic and gin
He says, “Son, can you play me a memory
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes.”
Obviously, the old man is drunk, hence the fourth line about making love to his tonic and gin. The last part of the verse paints the picture that this man is depressed, notice how he doesn’t ask to play a melody, he says to play him a memory. The lesson to be learned in this moment can be explained by a phenomenon called, musicophilia,a term coined by a neurologist named Oliver Sacks. In short, when songs are played that are or were once important to a patient, the patient will be transported back to their younger days. In Musicophilia, he talks a man who only has seven seconds of memory, except when music is played.  (  In short, the lesson is the power of music on the brain, and the heart.
After the first chorus, the first part of the verse goes:

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be

He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me.”
As a smile ran away from his face
“Well, I’m sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place.”

This narrative, is similar to the one that is present in Poison’s song, “Fallen Angel”. In which a girl goes into Hollywood with massive dreams of being an actress and it ends up not being what she hoped for. “Like a lasso tied up in the Hollywood scene”, John in this part can probably identify with that quote. Which brings us to the lesson of this section, Although someone seems really bright and cheerful, everyone has demons. Someone once said, “those that make us laugh the most, have some of the darkest demons.” On the surface, it is often difficult to see the amount of baggage someone has with them. The point is to remember that it is there, and to respect that people go through a lot, so treat them with respect.

Directly after the above verse it goes:

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he’s talking with Davy, who’s still in the Navy
And probably will be for life

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes they’re sharing a drink they call “Loneliness”
But it’s better than drinking alone

The lesson in this particular section of the song is that people and the friendships that are made are the most important things in life. Cherish, every single interaction, because even though you may not need it or want it, the person on the opposite end could.

To sum up the point of this article, I am only going to use one line in this song, that perfectly portray the power of music.

It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been coming to see
To forget about life for a while.

If for some reason you want to, or have not heard this classic: Here you go


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